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Virtualization Management in the Datacenter

In my previous blog I discussed the business need for flexibility when resourcing datacenters and how changes to hardware can facilitate this. Utilizing virtualization technologies in the datacenter enables even greater flexibility. New virtual machines can be spun up within a matter of minutes for whatever purpose. Datacenters can be truly dynamic to meet the ever-changing demands of an organization.

Datacenters contain business-critical applications. Those applications must have high availability, absolutely minimal downtime and high-end performance. Because of this, licensing the hardware and software that comprises the datacenter can be very costly. Even seemingly minor changes can have a profound effect on an organization’s financial exposure.

Just as hardware changes must be correctly managed with a clear understanding of licensing implications, so must virtualization changes. In fact, the virtualization layer adds a further level of complexity to the licensing options available to an organization and with those opportunities come the risk of getting it wrong. With the vast majority of organizations utilizing virtualization in their datacenters, keeping on top of this multi-layered dynamic environment is a difficult task for even the most meticulous of SAM teams.

In this article, I’ll introduce some of the exciting features on the way in Snow License Manager 8 which enable the SAM professional and datacenter manager to understand their Effective License Position (ELP) in the datacenter and get the complex mix of VM use rights optimally aligned with risks being well-balanced.

A fine balance

So what are the risks? What are the considerations one should take into account? On the one hand, it’s possible to overpay and double-license virtualized servers. On the other hand, moving a virtual machine from one server of a particular specification to another with a higher specification can result in significant unbudgeted costs.

The SAM professional may be unaware of downgrade or upgrade rights and other factors which cover use rights of VMs. They may simply not have enough control or visibility of the dynamic estate to understand which option is best.

Let’s look at a simple example. Say your organization is running Oracle® Database Enterprise Edition on a two-processor Intel server with four cores per processor. Given that the Intel processor has a core factor of 0.5 then the total processor licenses required for this server would be four (based on the calculation of core factor * processors * cores which is 0.5 * 2 * 4 = 4 ).

Say that a decision is made to move the software onto a VMWare® virtualized server within a larger capacity datacenter. Because Oracle does not recognize third party virtualization technologies, the organization would be liable for the full capacity of the datacenter, even if there was only one Oracle instance on the one virtual machine. The license liability for a relatively modest datacenter comprising four servers with a total of fourteen Intel processors, each with four cores per processor would be 28 (0.5 * 14 * 4 = 28). That is a sevenfold increase in license liability. With the standard cost of Oracle® Database Enterprise Edition sitting at $47,5001 per processor, it’s simple mathematics to figure out that this small infrastructure change comes with a hefty bill!

Examples such as this show why it’s so important to have a view of the entire datacenter available within a single repository which takes away some of the hard calculations for the SAM manager and alerts all stakeholders of changes which affect compliance. When working towards an optimized license position it’s important to take a “helicopter view” of the datacenter and applications contained within it before drilling down into specific configurations. There will likely be numerous versions and editions of an application family running on the datacenter, on virtual machines, or directly on physical servers. The deployment of versions and edition, and the location of those will help to determine the optimal licensing. I show this in more detail in the below video.

Another important factor which should be taken into account is minimum license requirements. As organizations consolidate existing workloads and refresh hardware, they may find, for example, that a SQL Server instance uses only a fraction of available system computing power. When deploying databases in virtual environments which require just a fraction of a physical server, savings can be achieved by licensing individual virtual machines (VMs). However there are minimum license requirements placed upon this. With SQL Server Standard Edition 20142, if you have a VM with one core assigned, you may assume that licensing the individual core covers you. However, you will still need to license four cores. It’s important to understand this upfront. If you don’t you are running the risk of under-licensing and a liability in the thousands of dollars3 for the mistake.

Bringing it together - The power of 8

The journey towards an optimized license position in the datacenter depends on balancing a number of intertwined variables. That requires an overall insight into the components of the datacenter and their associated licensing options.

Now add into the mix that the datacenter is highly dynamic, keeping that balance becomes even more complex. Without automated warnings of changes and their implications, the task becomes extremely onerous. This is significantly alleviated by the forthcoming features of Snow License Manager 8.

At Snow Software, we’ve been considering these complexities and have been working hard to provide the solution which will enable the SAM manager to optimize their licenses and to work with the infrastructure team to keep it that way. Watch this video to find out more.

Watch the video on YouTube

With Snow License Manager 8 you can:

  • View the state of your datacenters from one single view
  • Associate hardware licensing requirements with virtualization licensing requirements
  • Automatically assign minimum requirements to licenses
  • Manage license stacking

Harnessing the power of the datacenter can bring significant advantages to an organization. This by no means should imply that the high running costs can be ignored. Optimizing datacenter licensing represents a massive cost-saving opportunity for organizations.

Where licensing complexity, multiple physical and virtual layers and the dynamics of the datacenter may have seemed like too much of a challenge to make in achieving significant savings, Snow License Manager 8 removes this hurdle and it will be available very soon. Look out for further blogs on what’s to come!

1: Oracle pricelist 2016: http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/pricing/technology-price-list-070617.pdf

2: Microsoft SQL Server Licensing Guide 2014: http://download.microsoft.com/download/B/4/E/B4E604D9-9D38-4BBA-A927-56E4C872E41C/SQL_Server_2014_Licensing_Guide.pdf

3: Microsoft SQL Server Standard 2014 List Price, $3,189.00 for 2 cores: http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/en_US/pdp/SQL-Server-2014-Standard-Edition/productID.298540100